“Totally new roles for some of them”: New Norfolk coach brings change to first season

NORFOLK, Neb. - Athletes are facing a lot of change at a school in northeast Nebraska.

Norfolk Senior High volleyball is under a new head coach who is mixing things up on and off the court.

"Almost everything that I teach has already been laid, now I just want to try to take it to the next level," said Head Coach Dave Hepner.

Hepner comes from a 14-year coaching position in Hastings. He said coming back to Norfolk has been a full-circle moment.

"I started my career in Norfolk, my wife has family here, it's just an opportunity for us to get back to our roots," said Hepner.

Hepner started his 27-year coaching career at Nebraska Christian College in 1995. Since arriving in May, he's hit the ground running.

"We've moved people around," said Hepner. "They've accepted all those new roles, totally new roles for some of them."
"I'm loving him," said Tessa Gall, Norfolk Junior. "I think everyone's loving him. He's brought a lot of new ideas and I think it's helping our program a lot."

Panther senior Erin Schwanebeck went from outside hitter to libero.

"I actually love it," said Schwanebeck. "I really like playing back row. I think I'm just better at back row. I don't get down on myself as much. I'm just more confident in the back." 

The girls said they hope the adjustments help change the season's outcome.

"I think we have a lot of potential this year," said Schwanebeck.

Hepner said they haven't made it to the playoffs since 2003.

"So that's kind of one of our goals to see what we can do to break that," said Hepner.

Hepner said he set some personal goals off the court as well.

"They said they always know they feel loved and that hits you right in the feels," said Hepner. "To me, that's what it's all about. If they can know that I care about them, I've done my job." 
Monday was the first practice after tryouts last week.
The Panthers will compete on Thursday in Wisner for the Varsity Jamboree.